Black-and-white Warbler
William H. Majoros

A Virtual Look at Fall Bird Migration

A Virtual Look at Fall Bird Migration

Oct 15, 2020|Birding| by Holbrook Travel
Guest post by Debbie Jordan

Fall is my favorite season—not only because cooler weather is arriving after Florida’s long hot summer, but also because it is time for migrating birds to pass through, heading south to their wintering grounds in Central and South America. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers an amazing tool to find out what’s happening in your neighborhood. There is so much yet to be learned about migration, but it’s clear that a LOT of birds make their journeys during the night hours. Check out live bird migration on the BirdCast website. For us, last night was very active so you can be sure I’ll be on the lookout today for unusual-for-here bird species such as Cape May and other beautiful warblers!

 Summer Tanager by Sanford M. Sorkin

Two weekends ago, I “traveled” to Cape May, New Jersey for their first-ever virtual Fall Festival. Normally I would be there in person, manning our Holbrook table, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones interested in our small-group birding and nature expeditions.  But this year gave me the unique opportunity to attend all the sessions, so I spent the weekend glued to my computer! I learned so much, from raptor identification to tagging monarch butterflies (which are also passing through on their way to Mexico).

Fall Festival’s tagline of "So. Many. Birds." is not an overstatement! Hosted by the Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) and New Jersey Audubon, the festival team did an incredible job bringing us to the live action, and boy, was it active on Saturday morning! At 7 am through Zoom technology, we witnessed thousands of birds finding places to feed and rest for the day at the tip of the Cape May peninsula. Each morning during migration, the CMBO counts birds for six hours and posts the info to, an international migration database.  You can find CMBO’s Morning Flight live data posted here. Saturday, Oct. 3, was a banner day with over 27,000 songbirds! 

As you can see above, I snapped a picture of my computer screen when Cape May’s Tom Johnson was describing how the previous night’s Doppler radar showed large concentrations of birds heading southward with the cold front coming through. It was a perfectly clear night, and he and many others had been up all night recording the sounds of the arriving songbirds. Those green blobs are moving south, heading straight into the natural funnel of Cape May, that little spit in the bottom center of the screen. The birds don’t like to fly over water, for obvious reasons, but do follow the coastline.

I hope you might check out the websites I’ve cited and perhaps we might see you virtually at one of our upcoming events! 

Birders Bucket List Bash – our talk on Costa Rica will be Thursday, Nov. 12 at 8 pm.

San Diego Bird Festival – Feb. 17-21, 2021 – Jen Hajj and her team will have a tough act to follow, but San Diego also has some amazing birding! And don’t forget to check out our post-festival trip to Costa Rica:

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